What DOES the Mad Macedonian see in Orange County, anyway?
Whatever is there for me to see, if I'd only take the time to notice, and more of it, too. ;-D
Take the Santa Ana River, for instance.
The old gal has witnessed a lot since man first set foot along its banks 12,000 years ago.
She comes out of the mountains, east of Mentone Beach, in San Bernadino County, and though man has tried to tame her with concrete, still has the power to rage, over 75 miles, to the coast in Huntington Beach, when the rains are sufficient to encourage her.
Nature in all its glory, and variety can be experienced by the cyclist, hiker, and jogger, along the length of the Santa Ana River Trail
Occasional Graffiti, and a few homeless under bridges, are only a few of the most noticeable things to see along its length, unsavory, beautiful, and every description inbetween.
This story is about the little things, the things that you might not notice or, if you do, you don't have, or take, the time, to look more closely at what you see.
You don't know what you are missing. ;-D
Some of those little things remain in place for months, or years until, one day, nature decides enough time has passed and it is time for release, and the past is swept away, in a rush of water, the better to make way for the future.
Along one stretch of the Santa Ana River Trail, in Orange, as it passes Chapman Ave., south of Anaheim Stadium, there are 2 trails.
These days, if you choose the main trail, on the left, over the lesser used section, on the right, you might not see something in plain sight, even if you were looking in its direction.
Yesterday morning, as I rode on that side, I encountered something quite unexpected.
I don't remember it being there as far back as it supposedly has been, but the 2 most recent times I rode by I was in a hurry, and had something else on my mind. ;-D
I had noticed a bicycle next to the concrete rive barrier that spanned the river, and didn't, immediately, see anything, or anyone else, from my spot on Chapman, so rode over to look.
I noticed 3 things, the 2nd of which caused me to return over 2 hours later with my camera.
The first was that the bike was old, and beat up, with a torn seat.
The second was a memorial planted in a hole in the dirt, and kept upright by a tiny ledge, and some rocks.
The third was a man sitting, barely noticeable from my new spot on the trail, on the concrete in the center of the river.
He waved at me, and I figured he must be one of the several 50-ish year old homeless white guys in the area who rode bikes, some with paniers, or backpacks, that carried their belongings, and the bike was his.
I waved back, and left.
I returned with camera, hiking stick with camera mount, and a notepad, expecting the guy to be gone, and instead discovered that he now had a friend with a bike and a backpack.
I ignored them, and set about taking pictures, and taking notes about the memorial.
Old Glory, small, dirty, and tattered, was taped to a stick, which was jammed into a beat up small white metal pipe of some sort.
There she was, waving bravely, proudly, in the breeze, honoring someone, as the markings on the pipe indicated, who had once served in the military.
I pulled the whole thing out of its hole for a closer look at the writing, written with a black marker, and was intrigued with what I found.
Was this someone who had recently died in Iraq, or Afghanistan?
Was this someone who had died there in the last few years, or in the last conflict we were in in Iraq?
Or was it Vietnam, Korea, or WW2?
As I was doing all this the man sitting in the riverbed got up, and walked to the trail, and over to me.
I finished my note taking and, sticking the post back in the ground looked up as the man approached.
He was a gray-haired, grizzled man at least a decade older than I am, and seemed to be much like the men mentioned earlier.
But appearances can sometimes be not what they seem, or maybe just more complex than even that. ;-D
He said that HE was the one who had created, and placed the memorial.
I asked him if the person was a relative, and he said no, "I am Lt. Guay".
Startled by this developement, I smiled, and reached out my hand, and said I was honored to meet him, as I was a supporter of the troops and the current War on Terror, in the Middle East, and around the world, and was planning to write about this little memorial on my blog.
He expressed thanks, and appreciation, for my support.
I asked him what the memorial was about and this is what he said:
He was a Vietnam Veteran, and he had been invited to a Memorial Day Event, but was unable to attend.
In the meantime he had stumbled upon this tattered little flag along the trail, nearby, one day, felt it deserved a better fate than that, and told his wife he was going to do something with it to honor his buddies lost in Vietnam.
He said he was in a Med Unit in the war.
He remembered the day he returned to America, from the war, like it was yesterday, he said, and remembers kissing the ground when getting off the plane.
So he attached the flag to the stick, found the pipe, and grabbed a marker, and placed this memorial here just after Memorial Day.
He was here this day, he said, because he had just lost his daughter, and appreciated the quiet beauty of this spot.
How she died he didn't say.
I asked if he'd take my picture, then asked if he minded taking one with me as well, and he said no, and we got his companion to take the shot.
Both men seemed quite interested in my camera, and the Lt. left us to return to the bikes as I talked to his friend, Jake.
It was then that I decided to leave and, thanking them both, said my good-byes and pedaled home.
Upon returning home, and being the curious sort, I did some googling. ;-D
I didn't ask the man his first name so couldn't narrow my search down to that, but...
A few mentions of Guays, including in the military, and including a Lt. Colonel, going back to WW2.
No specific mention of the 113th Div., but maybe I just don't know the best way to search.
I DID find 2 interesting stories about a female, last named Guay, in the current military, that will be familiar to those interested in news about events in the war on terror, and the fighting in the Middle East:
Jennifer Guay went to war to be a grunt. And the 170-pound former bartender from Leeds, Maine, with cropped red hair and a penchant for the bench press, has come pretty close.
It was mid-February and Guay, 26, an Army specialist who was the first woman to be assigned as an infantry combat medic, was spending 10 hours a day on missions with the 82nd Airborne Division, dodging rockets and grenades in the crowded streets of Mosul.
May 13th, 2005 - FOR FEMALE GIs, COMBAT IS A FACT: Many Duties in Iraq Put Women at Risk Despite Restrictive Policy.
We've been following the Pentagon's "boiled frog" strategy related to women in combat. . . the plan has been to simply go ahead and put women into combat, present it to the American people as a fait accompli, knowing that the media would then do profiles on the women as hero(ine)s...
As predicted, that's exactly how it has unfolded.
May 16th, 2005 - SERGEANT CHRISTOPHER PUSATERI: Who was with him when he died?
The comments to this 2nd piece, from relatives of both soldiers, will not fail to move you.
I do not know, and probably never will, if the man I talked to was really the person named on this memorial, or just one of two local homeless guys playing with my head for reasons of his, their, own.
The important thing to take away from this story is twofold...
When out on a bike ride, jog, or hike, keep your eyes peeled for the interesting things all around you.
The Guays, from one end of this country to the other, in all their variety, are a brave, and patriotic American Family that deserves our thanks for their service to our nation.
***UPDATE - 6/14/08***
A deep felt thanks to the premier MilBlog in the world, Mudville Gazzette, for including this post in a recent Dawn Patrol Round-up, and a hearty welcome to those of its regular readers who have stopped by to read this story.
If you are looking for a blog full of stories on politics, war, terrorism, and the like, I hope you won't be disappointed at not finding it.
However, if you are into Cats, Classical Music, Books, Movies, Poetry, Writing, Hiking, and Genealogy, among other interesting preoccupations of mine, then I think you will find much in my posting, and sidebars full of links, to interest you. ;-D